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What to do if you can’t pay your energy bill

By Energy Company Numbers on February 11, 2017 in Help and advice
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Life can be incredibly expensive. Between food, bills, our housing and whatever else might suddenly spring itself on us, our monthly wage can be stretched pretty thin. As such, when it comes to the end of the month, you might well be wondering “what can I do if I can’t pay my energy bill?”

Well, the first thing you should do is not panic. Your current situation is one that countless people have been in before and countless more will be in after you. From time to time we all get in a scrape like this, so burying your head in the sand or getting panicked will only make matter worse.

With that in mind, we can look towards a solution. So, what can you do?

Do I need to go through my energy supplier?

Whether you’re in £5 of debt of £5,000, you need to talk to your energy supplier about the deficit in your bill.

Related: How to move home with British Gas as a pay-as-you-go customer

If you don’t speak to your energy supplier they may well threaten to disconnect your supply, and should you continue to ignore their requests they are within their rights to do just that. If you’ve ever gone without power or heating, you’ll know this isn’t a desirable route.

How can I negotiate a repayment plan?

Once you’re on the phone to your energy supplier, you’ll find that they have ways to help you settle that debt. Work with them on a plan for debt repayment plan which works for both of you.

Tell them what you’re willing to pay fixed amounts over a set period of time. This could mean that you pay off your existing debt as you pay for any new energy.

Your energy supplier has a duty to ensure that you’re able to pay back your debts sustainably, so give them information about your financial situation, your bills and your incoming cash. They’ll then take a look at your future predicted bills and put together a plan for repayment.

If it transpires that you can’t afford your payment plan you can try to negotiate a better deal. If you still can’t pay them back, they may make you have a prepayment meter installed.

Can I use my benefits to pay off my energy debt?

You may be able to repay your debt directly from your benefits via the Fuel Direct Scheme. On the scheme a fixed amount will automatically be taken from your benefits to cover what you owe, plus an extra amount to cover you for your current usage.

Related: Could smart switching cut your energy bills?

Many prefer this method as it happens automatically.

To be eligible you must be on one of these benefits programmes:

  • Income Support
  • Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Universal Credit (but only if you’re not working
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance

To find out more information, speak to your local Jobcentre and let them know you want to set up Fuel Direct. They’ll tell you what you need to do.

What if I can’t come to an agreement?

If you’ve spoken with your energy supplier and you can’t come to an agreement regarding a payment plan, your supplier could force you to have a prepayment meter installed in your home. This would mean that you’d have to top up your meter for whatever energy you wanted to use. In rarer cases, they might threaten you with complete disconnection.

Is there any financial help out there?

Many energy suppliers are happy to discuss an affordable payment plan with you, so that you can pay for your energy. For example, British Gas give you the opportunity to talk to them about your situation and they may be able to arrange for you to pay your bill by instalments. To find out more about this, use this British Gas contact number and speak to them.

There are charities and energy companies which offer grants and schemes that are open to anybody, whether you’re a customer or not. Simply tell them “I can’t pay my energy bill” and you’ll be on your way to getting some financial help. Do be aware though that this should be a last resort if you’ve exhausted all other options. These charities exist to help those that need it most, and abusing that help will only hurt other people in need.

About the Author

Energy Company NumbersView all posts by Energy Company Numbers
Energy Company Numbers is a telephone number directory service dedicated to helping UK consumers keep in touch with their energy suppliers.

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